Two Responses to Amp's posts

Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise and I have been debating about the new JAMA study of fat and mortality. Here is Lindsay’s response to my critique of her earlier post. I hope to find time to respond to Lindsay sometime in the next week.

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Glenn Sacks sent me an email about my response to his San Francisco Chronicle article claiming that men and women are equal victims of intimate homicide. First of all, he pointed me to this longer version of his argument, in which he describes his reasoning in more detail than the Chronicle’s space limitations permitted.

Secondly, Glenn took issue with my opinion that he and other men’s rights activists are “motivated to make arguments like this by their denial that sexism ever harms women more than men. In their view, men are always greater victims and women have nothing to complain about…” Here’s how Glenn describes his own view:

I don’t believe that men are oppressed and women are privileged or the other way around. I think both genders have advantages and disadvantages. But, what I have come to believe is that the disadvantages women face are in the public domain. Everyone knows about them. But few understand men’s. That is what I want to shine light upon.

Fair enough. However, I still think my original statement was a good description of how many MRAs think, even accepting that Glenn is an exception. Over on this thread on the MRA discussion board “Stand Your Ground,” when I asked a poster for an example of sexism or discrimination that harmed women, he responded “Bathrooms. There aren’t enough women’s bathrooms to meet the demand. That’s about all I can see…” And then another MRA poster responded that he didn’t even agree that bathrooms were a legitimate problem.

That’s anecdotal, of course, but I’ve debated with hundreds of MRAs over the years (mostly online), and the “women have no serious problems, not compared to what men suffer” attitude appears to be pervasive.

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15 Responses to Two Responses to Amp's posts

  1. 1
    Dan S. says:

    “what I have come to believe is that the disadvantages women face are in the public domain. Everyone knows about them. But few understand men’s. ”
    Quite possibly, but that’s only because they’re not exposed to feminism. Hasn’t he ever seen “Free to be, you and me”?
    “Daddies are people;
    People with children,
    When daddies were little, they used to be boys,
    Like some of you; but then they grew,
    And now daddies are men.
    Men with children.
    Busy with children and things that they do,
    There are a lot of things a lot of daddies can do.

    Some daddies are writers, or grocery sellers,
    Or painters or welders, or funny joke tellers,
    Some daddies play cello, or sail on the sea,
    Yeah, daddies can be almost anything they wanna be.”
    ***
    “”I’m… I’m sorry.”

    “What for? You did that very well.”

    “But only sissies cry.”

    “A sissy is somebody who doesn’t cry, because he’s afraid people will call him a sissy if he does cry.”"

  2. 2
    Mikko says:

    I’ve long wondered wether these mental-polarists (e.g. “there’s only feminism and chauvinism, and I’ve chosen chauvinism!”) “taking over” movements that are good in principle (e.g. MR-groups) are partly responsible for the excess polarization (e.g. “is Cecilia Celebrity liberal or conservative?”) existing in our culture.

  3. 3
    Robert says:

    Partly. Another part of it is that people who become successful activists, or (in the Modern World ™ of easy communications, communicate publicly about their agenda) tend to be the un-nuanced people. The nuanced person grabs the keyboard, starts in on the attention-getting polemic, but is then sidetracked by the fact that they actually recognize two or more sides to the issue. Then they write a thoughtful, crafted essay that seeks mutual understanding and cooperation, and that has an audience of maybe four people.

    Activists are people who don’t actually have any power. Once you have real power, you HAVE to work with people who disagree with you on fundamentals, unless you have the (mis)fortune to be a dictator or something. But when it’s just you in your basement, you can be as dismissive as you like of other people’s views. People who can work with other viewpoints have an advantage in seeking power, and so they tend to do so, rather than becoming a polemicist/professional loudmouth.

    This phenomenon knows no party, I should hasten to say. There are simple-minded folks holding pretty much every view. Simple-mindedness is not automatically a bad thing – it can be a very good thing – but it tends to make for monochromatic public discourse.

  4. 4
    paul says:

    Perhaps I’m being an essentialist here, but is anyone really surprised that so many men should feel that the problems men face under patriarchy (if they’re even willing to call it that) outweigh the problems women face, and that men’s voices must be heard always and everywhere? It used to be that people would identify “equal” participation of men and women in the classroom with situations where men talked 2/3 of the time and women 1/3 — has that changed at all in the past 20 or 30 years?

    It’s probably wrong to say that such MRA types don’t think sexism exists — they’re firmly convinced that it exists, and that it’s aimed at them.

  5. 5
    QrazyQat says:

    The one area where men clearly have more of a problem than women (and straight white men have more of a problem than gay or non-white men) is that it’s harder for them to see how they’re being kept down by people like the rightwingers. For those others it’s far more obvious — small comfort, I know, but it is something that makes it somewhat less likely that they will willingly participate in their own subjugation.

  6. 6
    Aegis says:

    Ampersand,

    I am rather a fan of Glenn Sacks, but it looks like he really needs to be more careful with his data! Since MRAs seem to get so much mileage from pointing out problems with feminist statistics, I would expect them to do a better job.

    Secondly, Glenn took issue with my opinion that he and other men’s rights activists are “motivated to make arguments like this by their denial that sexism ever harms women more than men. In their view, men are always greater victims and women have nothing to complain about…”?

    Yes, I have encountered MRAs like this. They are as frustrating to deal with as feminists who basically claim the reverse. Luckily, Warren Farrell seems to maintain that sexism against women definitely does exist (actually, he often discusses sexism against men by showing how it is analogous to types of sexism against women).

    I don’t think it is clear which gender is privileged or oppressed more, not because I think that both sexes have it equal, but because this question seems simplistic. It seems to presuppose that we can somehow tally up privileges and oppression, and input it all into a computer program that will tell us who is more of a victim. How exactly would that work?

    Do we compare the frequency of Bad Things That Happen To Women with Bad Things That Happen To Men? Or does it matter how bad those Bad Things are? Do we measure oppression as an objective condition, or as an intrusion into subjective happiness? Do you get extra Victim Points depending on the degree to which the discrimination against your gender happens to be ignored in mainstream society? Do we study sexism in principle or in law, or do we examine the concrete impact that sexism has on people?

    I am highly skeptical towards anyone who claims to have the answers to these questions, because they seem unquantifiable to me. They compare apples to oranges. In some cases, a comparison is clear: getting raped is almost definitely going to be worse than getting falsely accused of rape, no matter how you measure it. But getting raped is not necessarily analogous to getting falsely accused of rape. In other cases, the comparison is not clear. Who has it worse: a woman who gets sexually assaulted at a frat party, or a man who gets screwed in a divorce? There is no clear answer here because it really depends on the context and individuals, and the question seems insensitive to both people involved. They are dealing with two distinct types of harm that cannot be measured against each other in such a simplistic manner.

    Discrimination and sexism have different degrees of impact on different individuals depending on other factors. Sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and age are obvious examples, but so are (a) physical attractiveness, (b) social skills, (c) intelligence, (d) temperament, and probably plenty more. Also, the degree someone conforms to stereotypes for their sex makes a big difference in how much sexism they encounter; sexism doesn’t seem to something that happens mostly to males or mostly to females, but to individuals of either sex who do not conform. Beautiful women may encounter one type of sexism, plain women may encounter a second type of sexism, and shy/sensitive/intellectual men may encounter a third. How can we quantify which type of sexism is “worse?” I suspect that the degree of sexism that people encounter varies massively within genders, not just across genders, and the degree to which the sexism is damaging also varies from individual to individual (what is crushing to one person may be gotten over quickly by another).

  7. 7
    Amanda says:

    I’m afraid that MRAs are the ones who have forced the suffering Olympics discussions with the junk about how feminist progress needs to be rolled back, because they think men have it worse. For instance, trying to shut down battered women’s shelters on the grounds that some men are victims of domestic violence as well.

  8. 8
    Brian Vaughan says:

    I don’t understand why people are cutting Glenn Sacks so much slack. As far as I can tell, MRA range from extreme conservatives to open fascists, and that’s the impression I got from the one time I listened to Sacks’ show.

  9. 9
    Aegis says:

    Robert said:

    Partly. Another part of it is that people who become successful activists, or (in the Modern World â„¢ of easy communications, communicate publicly about their agenda) tend to be the un-nuanced people. The nuanced person grabs the keyboard, starts in on the attention-getting polemic, but is then sidetracked by the fact that they actually recognize two or more sides to the issue. Then they write a thoughtful, crafted essay that seeks mutual understanding and cooperation, and that has an audience of maybe four people.

    That is exactly my experience also, across all forums on gender politics. The more moderate and reasonable I try to be, the less attention I get. Or maybe I am still getting attention, and people simply agree silently with me?

    Also, I’m not sure if it’s always true that people with power have to become compromising.

    Amanda said:

    I’m afraid that MRAs are the ones who have forced the suffering Olympics discussions with the junk about how feminist progress needs to be rolled back, because they think men have it worse. For instance, trying to shut down battered women’s shelters on the grounds that some men are victims of domestic violence as well.

    I think that blaming the MRAs for the “suffering Olympics” is a bit one-sided. The MRAs learned very well from feminists that hyperbolic cries of victimhood could often attract more attention that reasoned discussion. It’s not true that all MRAs believe that women’s rights need to be rolled back, although some MRAs might not consider policies like DV law, sexual harassment policy, and the lower % of males receiving college diplomas to constitute “progress.” Btw, I deplore it if some MRAs have been trying to get women’s shelters shut down. Do you have a link that discusses this in detail?

    Brian Vaughan said:

    I don’t understand why people are cutting Glenn Sacks so much slack. As far as I can tell, MRA range from extreme conservatives to open fascists, and that’s the impression I got from the one time I listened to Sacks’ show.

    I cut Glenn Sacks slack because he usually knows what he is talking about. Most of the time, he is moderate, and backs up his statements reasonably. I have had a similar negative impression of some of the callers on his show, though.

    And it’s not true that “MRAs range from extreme conservatives to open fascists.” There are plenty of MRAs with libertarian and even liberal leanings (Warren Farrell is an example).

  10. 10
    Amanda says:

    Saying that someone is a victim, hyperbolic or not, is not the same thing as the suffering Olympics, Ae. The suffering Olympics is the argument that because men somehow suffer more, then help for women should be rolled back. But of course, men don’t suffer more, so the knee-jerk reaction from feminists is to point this out. And then you get into pointless battles about how hits who more, etc.

  11. 11
    ginmar says:

    Uh, Aegis, the way you minimize for MRAs and Glenn Sacks and have a different standard for feminists is very revealing.

    The MRAs learned very well from feminists that hyperbolic cries of victimhood could often attract more attention that reasoned discussion. It’s not true that all MRAs believe that women’s rights need to be rolled back, although some MRAs might not consider policies like DV law, sexual harassment policy, and the lower % of males receiving college diplomas to constitute “progress.”? Btw, I deplore it if some MRAs have been trying to get women’s shelters shut down. Do you have a link that discusses this in detail?

    Hypervolic? Attention? Got any proof for that that doesn’t come from some MRA? Amanda and Ampersand have established quite well that in fact the MRAs are trying to roll back womens’ rights. What, by the way, is wrong with the lower percentage of the population making up a lower percentage of college graduates? Why should they occupy a higher percentage?

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    Luckily, Warren Farrell seems to maintain that sexism against women definitely does exist (actually, he often discusses sexism against men by showing how it is analogous to types of sexism against women).

    I think Farrell is very clever at using a moderate tone, but is nonetheless the king of the “men suffer as bad or worse than women in every way.” For example, suggesting that although women suffer from “date rape,” men suffer from “date fraud,” as in this quote (which I was reminded of by Amanda):

    “If a man ignoring a woman’s verbal ‘no’ is committing date rape, then a woman who says `no’ with her verbal language but ‘yes’ with her body language is committing date fraud. And a woman who continues to be sexual even after she says ‘no’ is committing date lying…

    “We have forgotten that before we began calling this date rape and date fraud, we called it exciting.” — Warren Farrell, in Myth of Male Power

    Date rape is exciting?

    Back to your post:

    In other cases, the comparison is not clear. Who has it worse: a woman who gets sexually assaulted at a frat party, or a man who gets screwed in a divorce? There is no clear answer here because it really depends on the context and individuals, and the question seems insensitive to both people involved. They are dealing with two distinct types of harm that cannot be measured against each other in such a simplistic manner.

    Discrimination and sexism have different degrees of impact on different individuals depending on other factors.

    It’s tempting to be drawn into the comparison you’re making (pointing out that while both sexes get screwed over in divorce, outside of prison nearly all rape victims are female, etc). But I think to do that would be to miss the larger issue, which is that you’re just looking at individuals instead of looking at classes. Also, you’re ignoring the essential issue of power.

    Is every individual man better off than every individual woman, on every individual level of measurement? Of course not. But I don’t think any feminists would say otherwise.

    However, as a group, men as a class earn more money, occupy higher positions in every formal heirarchy (up to our not-quite-monopoly on the most powerful governmental and business positions), and face the sort of disrimination that – in general – pushes them into higher-paying jobs, albeit at some cost to them. In general, the people with decision-making power in society are men (even though most individual men are not powerful in that way), and that means that male-centric assumptions govern and organize our society.

    When it comes to sexual and intimate abuse, men and not women comprise virtually 100% of rapists (although most invidual men are not rapists). Outside of prisons for men, women comprise the vast majority of rape victims. When it comes to intimate violence – violence between spouses or lovers – men and women may be about even when it comes to minor, sporadic violence. But when it comes to severe violence, injuries, and negative effects of violence, clearly women are the more victimized.

    The problem is you can’t state even the simplist fact about violence – such as “rape in mainstream society is overwhelmingly committed against women by men” – without some MRA-influenced person popping up and saying “stop playing victimization olympics.” Well, it’s not “victimization olympics”; it’s trying to have an accurate assessment of reality, because if we’re too P.C. to even admit that most rape victims are female, then we can’t possibly begin to address the problem.

    The kind of arguments you’re using – “every individual is faced with different burdens, so we can’t make any judgements about which classes of people are being oppressed” – could have been used two hundred years ago to argue that there was no real oppression of women (sure, women can’t vote, are legally just extensions of their fathers/husbands, and can’t apply for the high-paying male jobs, but men are expected to support families and always suppress their emotions and protect the women and children, etc etc). Hell, you could make the same argument to say that women are no more oppressed than men in Saudi Arabia today – after all, the gender roles confine both sexes severely, right? A man dressed in drag in Saudi Arabia would be beaten, or perhaps killed. And men are stuck with the chore of escorting their female relatives everywhere.

    Well, yes. Oppression is not a zero-sum game; because women are severely oppressed in Saudi Arabia doesn’t mean that men aren’t. I’d hate to be a man in Saudi Arabia for many reasons, but one of the chief ones is that the male gender role is clealry horrifically confining in Saudi Arabia. And for some men – effeminate gay men, for example – the gender roles in S.A. aren’t just confining, but potentially deadly.

    But no matter how much you focus on the individual trees, the overall shape of the forest doesn’t change. And that shape is that, when you look at most of the questions of material power – from something as common as the ability to walk around on the streets without fear of molestation to something as rarified as which sex gets to be president – men as a class and not women predominate. That’s true in Saudi Arabia today, and it’s true – although to a lesser extreme – in the USA today.

  13. 13
    HC says:

    Aegis:

    Women are victims under patriarchy. The speaking up about it (i.e. the birth of feminism) is not hyperbolic or attention seeking. It is not my fault that I am a rape victim. And when I speak up about it, and people pay attention to me, that’s called survivor awareness, it’s a good thing.

    Womens’ status as victims under patriarchy needs to be addressed. Being a victim of something is nothing to be ashamed of. The perpertrators who make victims should be ashamed.

    HC

  14. 14
    Amanda says:

    Is every individual man better off than every individual woman, on every individual level of measurement? Of course not. But I don’t think any feminists would say otherwise.

    Every time I see an MRA arguing against women’s rights with variations of what you describe here, I am reminded of a photo at the LBJ library from the 60s of a man holding a sign that says something like “No jobs for Negroes until every white man has a job.” Same logic there.

  15. 15
    Crys T says:

    I think to do that would be to miss the larger issue, which is that you’re just looking at individuals instead of looking at classes. Also, you’re ignoring the essential issue of power.

    “Classes”???!? What are you, some kinda pinko???

    You’ve got to the point that is currently hobbling every debate about inequality–whether race, sex, socioeconmic, etc.: the fact that so many people are unable to see past individual examples to recongnise that there are in fact classes. Every time a topic related to some sort of discrimination or abuse of power comes up, I know that I’m going to have to spend most of it simply trying to get past that wall of “You can’t generalise: you have to see people as individuals” crap. Gah.

    Sorry, that’s my own personal pet hate.